Cut to the Chase Podcast: Ep. 53 w/ Robert Silverman

Another KnickerBlogger legend, Robert Silverman, now of Vocativ, joined me on my podcast to talk about the New York Knicks, Phil Jackson, the crazy head-coaching search and much more.

Here’s how you can listen to the episode, and I definitely encourage you all to leave a review and/or five-star rating if you liked our conversation.

SoundCloud:

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/cut-to-chase-chase-thomas/id1050517561?mt=2

Libsyn:

Cut to the Chase Episode 39: Mike Kurylo on the Knicks

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, but I’m back and happy to share the most-recent episode of my podcast that features Mike Kurylo.

In the episode, we talk about the state of the New York Knicks, whether the team should trade Carmelo Anthony, what’s going on with Phil Jackson, what the team should do this summer, Kristaps Porzingis, and much more.

Here are three ways you can listen to the episode:

SoundCloud:

Libsyn:

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-39-mike-kurylo-uncle/id1050517561?i=365191807&mt=2

Summer League Recap: Hornets 82, Knicks 79

The SummerKnicks are undefeated no more after falling 82-79 to the SummerHornets Saturday afternoon. Like the majority of Summer League games, this game wasn’t pretty. TGe  shot a gruesome 22.7 percent from beyond the arc and 34.9 percent overall, but still managed to keep it close thanks to a fairly dominant starting-five unit.

The Good:

Tim Hardaway Jr. led all scores (yes, again) with 27 points on 20 field goal attempts, but he wasn’t just gunning from deep this afternoon, though, as the second-year wing made a number of pretty drives and cuts to draw a couple of 3-point plays inside.

As previously mentioned, the Larkin-THJ-Early-Tyler-Henriquez quintet had a combined plus/minus of +54 in this game. When one cog was removed from this beastly machine, things fell apart pretty quickly.

I’m convinced Shane Larkin is spending his free time in Vegas watching nothing but Pablo Prigioni film from the last two seasons. Larkin registered a team-high three steals and kept the SummerHornets on their toes all game long. He still didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, just 5-of-14 from the field, but he was all over the place, grabbing rebounds, attempting circus passes, and possibly cleaning up at the blackjack tables. He’s our Hunter S. Thompson Game MVP, because he did pretty much everything. I’m not saying he ingested pure adrenochrome, but then again…

Cleanthony Early has been the SummerKnicks second-best player, despite a lack of gaudy numbers. Best of all, he showed he’s probably ready to contribute at the NBA level right out of the gate. He is just a really smart basketball player that picks his spots on the floor to shoot extremely well, can crash the boards (10  today!) and he works his ass off on both ends of the floor. I’m all in on the Early-Should-Be-In-The-Rotation-From-Day-One train. For the 34th pick in the draft, that’s all you can ask.

The Bad:

The Knicks of Summer’s front court struggled again without the irresistible object that is Cole Aldrich protecting the rim. The Bugs got to the line 26 times, converted 22 of those chances and generally made life tough for the Tyler and company.

The Knicks added another big this week, Jason Smith and thus the odds of Jeremy Tyler making the big-league roster got a tad slimmer this week, so he REALLY needed to have a big last hurrah in Vegas. That didn’t happen. He shot just 3-of-12 from the floor, and once again just didn’t look exactly fluid in the geometrically-shaped offense

Shannon Brown, Heroball Gawd.

Clyde Quote Of The Game:

Bye SummerKnicks, you were surprisingly cool and fun. Hope against hope that the RealKnicks pick up where y’all left off.

Summer League Recap: Knicks 71, Blazers 69

Despite shooting paltry 34.3 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from three, but the New York SummerKnicks eked out a less-than-pretty 71-69 victory over a Portland SummerBlazers squad that featured a lot of guys that will be in their regular season rotation.

The Good:

Tim Hardaway Jr. is a 3-point gunner, we know that, but Summer League Hardaway Jr. is a totally different beast. The former Michigan Wolverine scored a game-high 20 points including 3-of-8 from beyond the arc. Hardaway took a lot of shots, but the leading gunner of the day was Brandon Triche, a former Syracuse guard, who jacked up five 3s in just 11 minutes of action, and connected on zero of them.

I really liked what I saw out of the Knicks’ two second-round picks, Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo, but for very different reasons.

Early shot the ball with a lot of confidence in the first half. You could tell Early is used to being the guy on a team, and that should help ease his transition into the League. He went 3-of-8 from the field and 1-of-2 from beyond the arc while doing a nice, active job on the boards, grabbing six rebounds. I can’t say what exactly it is, but he just gives off that “I’m going to be a rotation player for the next ten years” vibe.

Thanasis is like that guy in pick-up who presses all game long, jumps around and is just an all-out pest on the basketball court. He’s somebody you’d hate to be matched up against, but if he’s on your team he’s a lot of fun because of how active he is on the floor. And then, in the 3rd quarter, we got this (Via @cjzero)

Shane Larkin’s game-winning floater. It was pretty.

The Bad:

Shannon Brown 4-on-1 breaks. *Shivers*.

It would have been nice to see Jeremy Tyler have a good game with Cole Aldrich sitting out, and … he didn’t deliver. He shot 2-of-9 from the floor, had four turnovers and six personal fouls. There are just a lot of dudes on the Knicks’ roster right now. Some strong LVSL performances would go a long ways to helping the powers that be make up their minds. Like with Cole, who got a two-year deal hard on the heels of a boffo 15-rebound performance. See that, Jeremy? Do what Cole does.

Clyde Quote Of The Game:

Next game is Monday at 4:00 EST against the Charlotte Hornets on MSG. Oh yeah, Melo’s coming back. Sort of a big deal. Go SummerKnicks!

Recapping the Draft: How Did the Knicks Do?

Getty Images.

The “Knicks” and “draft picks” have been used in the same sentence as sparingly as “Knicks” and “contenders” in recent years, but Phil Jackson has already started a sea chang  thanks to the trade that sent Tyson Chandler to Dallas. In the deal, the Knicks got two second-round picks, and Phil elected to use both of those selections to upgrade the Knicks depth at small and power forward–something the Knicks are  going to need if Carmelo Anthony doesn’t re-sign .

Phil may not have been successful in finding a trade partner to get into the first round, but two second-round picks are better than zero picks, which was the expected scenario up until a week ago. No matter who the Knicks ended up with on draft night, it was nice just be included in the festivities again.

With the No.34 pick, Phil took SF/PF Cleanthony Early out of Wichita State. Early had first-round talent, but fell into the Knicks lap due to some reaches during picks 20-30 that had fans scurrying to Draft Express (Bruno Caboclo? Josh Heustis?)

Early shares an almost identical frame as former Los Angeles Laker forward Devean George — both are 6’8 and weighed in around 220 lbs entering the league. George was an important role player during Phil’s Laker years, so if Phil and Derek Fisher can mold Early into the same type of player in the Triangle, that’s a home run for an early second-round pick.

Early only played two seasons for the Shockers, but they were memorable ones for those that follow college basketball. Sure, the Shockers fell short of expectations in March, but it definitely wasn’t due to Early’s performance. Early had a very impressive 62.7 True Shooting Percentage this past season, up from 56.5 percent during his freshman season, per sports-reference.com. Early’s numbers improved in 2-point field goal percentage, 3-point field goal percentage, free throw percentage and points per game in his sophomore season, which should be a good indicator of things to come.

To be clear, Early’s not going to be an adequate replacement for Melo if he ends up signing elsewhere this summer, but Early does figure to be a solid rotation player for the Knicks for a long time regardless of what other star or stars dot the roster, and that’s all you can really hope for out of second-round picks. Getting a modern-day Devean George (or James Posey 2.0 if you’re feeling particularly optimistic) may not be the most exciting thing in the world in a vacuum, but for the Knicks and the culture Phil is trying to instill that’s more-than-solid start.

I’ll probably never be able to properly spell his name without a solid internet connection, but I can deal with that if the Greek Freek’s older brother, and New York’s other second-round pick, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, is anywhere near as exciting and electric a talent as Giannis proven to be.

The bad news? The only time Knicks fans might get to see Thanasis in a Knicks uniform this season will be during Summer League. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the Knicks 51st pick in the draft may play next season in Greece depending on how he plays in Las Vegas. 

Six-foot-six Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the 21-year-old defensive specialist whom the Knicks drafted with the 51st pick, may play next season in Greece, where there is interest from teams. He will play in the summer league for the Knicks in July and they will decide if he’s ready after.

The older brother of the Bucks’ Giannis, he played for the D-League’s Delaware franchise but is said to be raw offensively.

With the Knicks purchasing their own D-League team in Westchester earlier this year, one would think the better long-term solution would be for the Knicks to have Thanasis spend the 2014-15 season learning the Knicks’ system in Westchester.  Thanasis did just that last season with the Delaware 87ers. From a Knicks-centric perspective, it would seem that learning the intricacies of the offense (and Westchester will definitely be running something involving a geometric shape) would be preferable. But there’s a big difference between what New York can pay and the salaries in the top Greek Pro League. Thanasis may decide that he can have his baklava and eat it to. I.e. work on his game and get that paper at the same time.

In any case, like his brother, Thanasis is a defensive-minded forward, but he’s much more limited on the offensive end of the floor. With Delaware, Thanasis averaged 14.8 ppg per 36 minutes, but he shot 30.9 percent from 3-point land and 66.7 percent from the charity stripe. If Thanasis can develop a league-average 3-point shot, especially from the corner, along with upping his percentage at the free-throw line a bit, he could eventually be another intriguing rotation wing for the Knicks long-term.

Phil may not have been able to wiggle his way into the first round, but he still did very well by ending up with two talents bursting with athleticism and upside in Early and Antetokounmpo the Older.

Yay? Yay!

2014 NBA Draft Open Thread: The Knicks Have Picks!

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2014 NBA Draft takes place tonight at the Barclays Center at 7:30 EST. Earlier this week it appeared like a longshot the Knicks would be involved in the Draft tonight in any capacity, but the the Knicks-Mavs trade from yesterday included two second-round picks from the Mavericks at No.34 and No.51.

It’s been reported that Phil really wants to get into the first round, but we shall see if he can pull it off shortly.

Enjoy!

3-on-2: Fisher, Melo and Phil’s Off the Court Triangle

Getty Images/ Charles Wenzelberg


So the Knicks have a new head coach, Derek Fisher, and it appears to be a pretty good hire, on paper. How do you ultimately think Fisher will unfold?

Robert: No idea. The whole “hiring a coach with zero actual experience” is a relatively recent trend. It worked out just fine for Hornacek and Kidd (after a few TPS-based bumps in the road) and Mark Jackson (clash of personalities with an Ayn Rand-loving dude like Lacob notwithstanding). I think Fish could certainly make for a fine clipboard-holder, but his success is going to largely depend on what the Zen Daddy does as a first-time Team Prez.

Look at Doc Rivers, another guy that went straight from the TV booth (or in this case, court) to the bench. He had a dandy first season with the Magic in ’99, dragging a team that was openly tanking, and whose best player was Darryl Armstrong to within inches of of a playoff berth.

He was considered nothing more than a pedestrian coach for years after that until Ubuntu showed up, and now he’s one of the best in the league. (I agree, he is a great coach now, but it took a lot of on-the-job training). If the Suns/Nets come crashing back to Earth next season, is Kidd/Hornacek still held in such high regard? Probably not. It’s a hoary cliche, but it is a player’s league, y’all.

Mike: Hiring a coach in the NBA is a crap shoot. D’Antoni was thought to be a good hire, but he didn’t work out here (or in L.A.). Larry Brown was thought to be a shoe-in, but that turned into a disaster. A few years back Thibodeau was the most desired “never-head-coached-before”, but now some Chicagoans are starting to sour on his lack of offensive production.

It seems that even established coaches have their ups and downs. Warren Spahn once said that he pitched for Casey Stengal “both before and after he was a genius.” So unless you’re getting the very best (Jackson, Popovich) roll the dice and hold on. It’s more likely that a team will be ruined by a bad coach, than over-produce due to a good coach, and it’s highly unlikely to come across a great coach. So if Fischer isn’t harmful to the team, I’ll take it.

Woj dropped another bomb Saturday morning, reporting that Carmelo Anthony is leaning towards leaving the Knicks. Chicago and Houston are considered to be the favorites to sign him. If you’re Melo, which route do you take? Should the fans be upset with him if he decides to leave?

Robert: I wrote a few things about that here. It really depends on what Melo wants. If New York really is the apple of his eye, he may be willing to wait out a rocky couple of seasons as the team retools (They never rebuild. Such a dirty word). If he wants to compete for a title now, then yeah. He’s packing his bags and looking at real estate listings in Texas and Illinois. The “What would I do if I was Melo” question is one I’m not remotely equipped to answer that question. I’m not a great, well-paid athlete. I don’t know what his priorities are in life outside the court, or if he’s just tired of dealing with traffic on the FDR/Holland Tunnel.

Should fans be upset? Again, I think yes, they certainly can feel that way. If I was 12 and Melo was my favorite player, seeing him leave would be heartbreaking. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you have to be in grade school to react as such. But as a purely emotional response, if Melo’s a player you love–or even if you coldly/logically think retaining him is the Knicks best path to sustainable success–you’re gonna get mad. That’s a wholly understandable, justifiable thing.

“Should” implies that Carmelo Anthony owes fans something beyond playing as hard as he can for the Knicks while he is a Knick. Say what you will about his game, but there’s zero question in my mind that Melo busted his hump the last two seasons.

Saying fans “should” be upset smacks of ownership, as if rooting for/loving a player means that the player is obligated to repay that love in kind. or that they should make life decisions based on that love, and if they fail to do so, well then they’ve betrayed the fans, and are a person of low character. Greedy. Selfish. Egotistical. Another Spoiled Athlete. And on and on.

That’s a pantload of Angry Facebook Dad grumpery. Carmelo (shocker) is a human being. And like you and me, he’s got a job and he will do things to maximize his own personal happiness and/or profit at that job. Sometimes those decisions make us sad. Deal with it.

Carmelo Anthony opting out, as played by Tom Hanks.
Mike: Wow, if I were ‘Melo? That’s tough. Because yes I’d love to be remembered as a guy who won a championship. And so as Robert suggested, packing his backs for Chicago or Texas is the right move.

But there are millions of reasons to stay in New York, and they’re all the same reason. Money. If I’m ‘Melo adding an extra 8 figures to my bank account for post-retirement enjoyment is completely rational. And basketball is just a game anyway. Am I really supposed to care about winning a championship vs. the benefit of my family? Oh and if I stay in New York, I’ll be seen as a hero. A noble knight in quest of bringing that highly desired championship to Gotham. A guy that didn’t turn his back on New York. And if I actually win one, and I’ll be in bronze in front of Penn Station.

Also who the heck wants to live in the Mid-West during the winter, or Texas at any time of year?

So if I stay in New York, it’s win-win, right?

Onto a happier a subject, the NBA Finals! The San Antonio Spurs are up 3-1 on the Miami Heat, which most, like myself, didn’t see coming. Let’s say the Spurs finish this at home in Game 5, who is your Finals MVP? Also, are you surprised with how this series has gone?

Robert: Can you give the MVP to an entire team? Or a coach? No? Poop.

Well, then my vote goes to Kawhi Leonard, who just turned twenty freaking two, by the way. It’s going to be fascinating to see if Leonard can continue to grow to a point where he’s carrying the offense a la Parker and Duncan before him, but he’s right there with Paul George in the “Who will be the next Scottie Pippen?” sweepstakes.

I said “Spurs in Six/Seven” before the series started, so winning in five isn’t that much of a shocker. Watching their Tiki-taka offense morph into something resembling the Godhead of basketball? Yeah, against this Heat defense…that’s not something I saw coming. But boy oh boy, has it been a mind-meltingly glorious spectacle to watch.

Mike:
I’m with Robert, Popovich. Oh wait you said Poop?

Kawhi Leonard is a good choice. Sure this way we can keep forgetting that Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili are on this team. Are they they greatest players in NBA history that everyone just overlooks? Is this the most overlooked team in history? Liking the Spurs must be like being Haley Joel Osment in the 6th sense. I can see things that no one else does.

Want to prove my point? Go to a bar and ask someone to name the best NBA teams of all time. They’ll undoubtedly say the Jordan Bulls, the Lakers (Magic or Shaq), the Celtics (Bird or Garnett), and the Heat (LeBron or Wade). You’ll probably get the Pistons or even the Rockets. No one ever says the Spurs. No one ever wonders if the one of the Spurs 5 championship teams could overtake Jordan, Magic, or Bird in their prime in seven games. No child has ever lost sleep over that.

This will be Duncan’s 5th championship, but for some reason his name sticks out like a sore thumb against Jordan’s swagger, Shaq’s brute strength, Magic’s smile, or Bird’s determination. How bad is it that I couldn’t even remember if Duncan/Robinson’s commercial was about lawn products or lemonade? [Hint: It’s neither.]